Because Chinese has only about 400 phonetic syllables, it is fairly common to encounter words with similar pronunciation, but different means and different characters (not to be confused with characters that have multiple pronunciations). In the sentence 北京就是背景, which means "Beijing is the setting," "Beijing" (北京 Běijīng) and "setting" (背景 bèijǐng), share the same pinyin. A speaker who has mastered the tones will have no problem hearing the difference between 北京 and 背景, but beginning learners often stumble over near homophones. The frequent occurrence of near-homophones in the Chinese language is not just something that captures the attention of beginning learners, however. Chinese homophones are a significant aspect of Chinese cultural customs, such as in the wordplay that the traditional comedic performance art crosstalk employs, and in various observances surrounding Chinese New Year.
Mandarin Learning Tips Blog
Chengyu (成语 Chéngyǔ) are idiomatic phrases which usually consist of four characters. Because many chengyu
In each language, spoken and written styles have their differences, especially when the written language has a long history. As China has a very long written tradition dating back to the Shang dynasty (3500-3000 years ago), the spoken language (口语 kǒuyǔ) and the written language (书面语 shūmiànyǔ) differ considerably more than in most languages. Written Chinese is much more formal than spoken Chinese, making it difficult for many Chinese learners who are able to carry on normal conversations to read a newspaper or write a business letter. Even if written Chinese isn't within the scope of your Chinese learning goals, it is useful to be able to recognize it and differentiate it from spoken language as you progress through your Chinese lessons.
The new year is upon us, which means that people are making their New Year’s resolutions with enthusiasm and hope. There’s one resolution that we think everyone needs to add to their list: Learn Chinese.
Surprised? Well, what if we told you that learning Chinese could help you achieve multiple other New Year’s resolutions?
When it comes to naming animals, some languages are more literal than others. For example, the English word “jellyfish” conjures up a vivid picture of what the animal looks like. “Seahorse,” too, is an example of an animal name created through adding two words together. If you think about it, the little sea creature’s head does resemble that of a horse.
Some of the greatest geniuses in the Western classical tradition, such as Mozart and Chopin, are rumored to have had perfect pitch, the rare ability identify a musical note precisely without any aid. Most people differentiate pitches by comparing one tone to another, and only about 1 in 10,000 in the US and Europe can identitfy notes based purely on the sonic information provided by a single tone. For a long time, perfect pitch was believed to be a gift of nature—child prodigies such as Mozart seemed to just be born with an innate musicality that allowed them to play entire concerti “by ear,” or after having auditioned the piece of music just once. However, recent studies showing native Chinese speakers to be nine times more likely to have perfect pitch have raised questions about how much nature is responsible for perfect pitch, suggesting that nurture may play a much more significant role than previously believed.